21 days…

Competition is 3 weeks from today! I am excited and eager to see what I can do, but I’m not putting much energy into dwelling on what may or may not transpire. At least not yet. Most of my focus has been on making it through each training session and keeping my back healthy. Some training days feel easy. Others feel tough. As the weights, reps and sets have increased, I’ve felt apprehension and fear, because I am training harder than ever before. As far as what is happening in the gym, the hard work is paying off.

1. competition bench (2-1×0) 2-3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 75 x 6, 95 x 3, 105 x 3, 115 x 2

main event: 125 lbs x 3, 125 x 3, 125 x 3, 125 x 3, 125 x 3

All of my sets were done with an arch today! My training times rarely coincide with my husband’s availability to train, but our schedules lined up today. I wanted him to assist with hand-offs and to spot me for the working sets…because I was a little nervous about the weight for reps for multiple sets. Honestly, I figured I could probably get 2 reps but wasn’t confident about 3, not for all 5 sets; however, I desired hand-off help because the heavier weight is harder to unrack by myself without expending too much energy or putting me out of position.

As I finished the third rep on the first set, my husband said, “Easy!” I racked the bar and said, “That was easy!” By the third set, my husband was asking why I needed his help. Every set was easy!

2. squat (3-0x0) 3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 5, 95 x 5, 135 x 4, 165 x 3

main event, with belt: 185 lbs x 3, 185 x 3, 185 x 3

The warm ups felt easy and strong, but the first working set was quite the opposite. The second and third sets were better.

3. long pause bench (3-3×0) 3 reps

95 lbs x 3, 95 x 3, 95 x 3

Super easy!

4. side planks

x 25 seconds each side, x 20 seconds each side


Wonder Woman vs Deadlifts

What do I do when it is deadlift day and my program calls for 5 sets of 2-3 reps at 255 pounds, and the heaviest I have EVER deadlifted for reps was 250 pounds for a single set of 2 reps? I put on my Wonder Woman tank top, Wonder Woman socks, and Wonder Woman earrings. I fill my Wonder Woman shaker bottle with my recovery drink and put it in my Wonder Woman gym bag. Then I go to the gym and do what I know how to do.

PRs can come in all shapes and sizes. There are competition PRs and gym PRs. PR for reps. Pr for sets. With or without belt or knee sleeves. Low bar or high bar. Mix grip or double overhand or straps. PRs set in the gym are nice, but I think they should be looked at like the markings parents put on the wall to track the growth of their children. You want to see improvement and growth in the gym; however, for competitors, the platform is where you take all that training, mix in the adrenaline that comes from competition, and strive to taste the fruits of your labour.

I do get a little thrill out of hitting gym PRs, because it shows me that I am getting stronger, better. My eyes are still firmly focused on the ultimate PRs though. These past few months have been challenging, exciting, scary, and educational. This is part of the journey of becoming…taking the skills I’ve learned in one environment and learning to apply them and improve on them in a completely different environment. I am walking along unfamiliar terrain in some ways, and I think that has been a good thing.

I wasn’t afraid of today’s deadlifts, but I was cautious and hopeful and determined. Cautious because the back injury lingers in the shadows of my mind. Hopeful because it is exciting to see my progression into uncharted territory. Determined because I want it and I’m willing to work hard for it.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 2-3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 135 x 4, 165 x 3, with belt 195 x 3, 225 x 2

main event: 255 lbs x 2, 255 x 2, 255 x 2, 255 x 1, 255 x 2

The warm ups moved well and felt good. The first working set was okay. Maybe even more than just okay. The bar moved well, I think, but I could tell that completing five sets would require almost every ounce of energy and willpower. I have never done very well with multiple reps at heavyish weights, hence my previous PR of 2 reps at 250 pounds! The first two sets this morning were good. The third set was still quite decent, but it was more difficult for me to create enough tension in my body to initiate the lift. The fourth set was some kind of mess from the beginning. The chalk box was completely empty, like so empty that I had to resort to scraping my hands along the bottom of the box in an effort to get any residual bits of chalk on my hands. There wasn’t really any! Then, as I was setting up my position and creating tension, I could feel my belt buckle against my arm, so I had to adjust the belt and start again. By this point, my brain was subtly telling me that I wouldn’t be able to get any tension. I managed one rep. Barely. I stood up for a moment to try to refocus before attempting the second rep. I managed to get the bar off the floor by maybe an inch or two, but I had to drop it. I know my body well enough to know when it is best to say no, but I was determined not to have such a mental lapse for the final set.

So I had two PRs of sorts today. The very first working set was a PR, and the entire volume at the working weight was a PR. If all this hard work translates into a PR on the platform on November 4th, then it will be worth it.

2. bench press (2-1×0) 3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 3, 100 x 3

main event: 110 lbs x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3

My warm up sets prior to 100 pounds were done without feet and arch. The reps all felt solid and good. I’m not sure if my perception was reality or merely a sensation, but it felt like my arch was slightly bigger and better for my working sets today. Probably not really.

Since I bench every training day, I am not always wearing the same shoes. On the days that I squat, I wear my Olympic weightlifting shoes which have an elevated heel. These are also the shoes that I have always worn for benching at competitions. However, on my deadlift days, like today, I wear a flat shoe (Nike Free) and I don’t bother to change shoes when I move over to the bench. Over the course of training for the past 4 years, I have practiced my bench press with both pairs of shoes. But I have been noticing a small difference over the past few weeks when I am wearing my flat shoes to bench. It’s barely perceptible, but I have noticed that I feel more connection with the floor and my leg drive with the flat shoes. I suppose it kind of makes sense since the Nike Frees are very light and thin-soled. I’m not sure what I am going to do with that information yet, but it is intriguing and worth more observation.

3. planks

x 35 seconds, x 30 seconds, x 30 seconds

The planks felt tough today, which I think is the result of the deadlifts. My core was quivering throughout each plank.


Smooth Sailing

In training, as in many aspects of life, there are good days and bad days. The exact same weight can look and feel completely different from one day to the next. It might feel super easy today, but then you might feel crushed beneath the same weight next week. I have experienced these ups and downs over the course of my 4 years of training, and I’ve been blessed to have wise and seasoned individuals in my life to remind me that those ups and downs, good days and bad days are completely normal. They happen to everyone, and I’d like to think that the ups and downs are actually beneficial. Smooth sailing is pleasant and safe, but a lack of adversity can actually make you weak. It might even prevent you from venturing into faster, rougher waters for fear of the unknown dangers that could be waiting ahead. Easy is nice for a season, but I think we grow best in the storm and struggles, in the gym and outside of it. Fighting to reach a goal. Pushing through adversity. Swallowing pride, disappointment and frustration. Sweating. Straining. Determination. Resistance. Those are the catalysts for growth, for change.

This is why I try not to let tough days get me down for very long. I might feel frustrated in the moment, but I’ve been learning to embrace the suck. As I approach the bar for a set that feels hard and maybe more than I am capable of, I feel a hurricane of emotions raging inside. Fear. Doubt. Anger. Pride. Insecurity. Anxiety. Hopefulness. Despair. I feel them all and more that I cannot put a name to. I feel them battering away at my confidence, then I batten down the hatches and do what I need to do. Am I always successful? No. Sometimes I need to drop reps. Sometimes my body hurts. Once in a while, I simply fail. But I do the best that I can in the moment, knowing that a tough session doesn’t equal failure. I’ve got competition goals, and those goals can only be achieved on the platform. I can perform those goal weights in the gym, but I would only get personal pride in the achievement. On the flip side, fighting through 5 tough squat sets of 4 reps at 180 pounds does not automatically indicate that I will bomb my squats at competition.

Last week’s squats, those 5 sets of 4 reps at 180 pounds, felt tough and some of the reps felt ugly. The exact same weight, sets and reps the week before also felt rather tough. Until today, 180 pounds was the most weight I’ve had on my back since June 10 and that resulted in re-tweaking my back. Today’s training called for squats at 200 pounds, and I was respectfully apprehensive. That’s what months of injury and rehab will do to your sense of capability. I expected 200 pounds to feel tough. I expected that I might struggle through the reps and sets. The rep range was 2-3, and I was already mentally preparing myself to strive for 2 reps and not stress out over not getting all 3. I was even expecting that my back might erupt into pain again. I expected all of those things, but I walked into the gym with confidence in my step, in the knowledge that I am a fighter, determined and focused. Good, bad, or ugly…I was going to meet it head on.

1. competition squats (2-0x0) 2-3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 5, 135 x 3, 165 x 3, with belt 185 x 2

main event: 200 lbs x 3, 200 x 3, 200 x 3, 200 x 3, 200 x 3

Remember how I said 180 pounds has felt tough for the past two weeks? The final warm up set at 185 pounds felt a little bit heavy, but 200 pounds felt lighter and easier. Although I had prepared myself to simply strive for 2 reps, I had no trouble getting 3 reps for all 5 sets. While there might have been a rep here or there that wasn’t quite perfect, most of the reps felt and looked (at least the ones that I had video of) pretty darn good! My coach said I crushed it, and that’s exactly how I feel about it. After the first working set, I racked the bar and walked over to stop my video and broke into a big, sassy grin. I had approached the bar for that first set with trepidation and determination, and, as I was squatting, I realized that I was going to be okay. Confidence surged within me.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 2 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 2

All those sets were done with my feet on the bench. The back was feeling decent, but, knowing how much arching can quickly aggravate my back when it is irritated, I am going to take whatever measures I can to minimize the aggravation. At least until my back returns to normal function again!

100 x 2, 110 x 2

main event: 120 lbs x 2, 120 x 2, 120 x 2

In the same way that I haven’t squatted 200 pounds for almost 4 months, I also haven’t benched 120 pounds for just as long. Bench press is by far my weakest of the big 3 lifts, and my bench press in competition has been stuck at the same weight for two years. Now that is frustration if I ever experienced it! The programming given to me by my new coach has pushed me and my bench press further and harder than I’m used to going, but so far I’ve been able to keep pace.

The fact that a heavy squat has the ability to crush you like a bug will always make me feel more apprehension than a heavy bench press; however, once I crushed those heavy squats today, I had to look 120 pounds in the eye and tell myself that I was capable. And I was. The bar felt a bit heavy and the reps felt a little slow, but everything looked good on the videos!

3. pause squats (3-2×0) 3 reps

155 lbs x 3, 155 x 3, 155 x 3

4. chest supported rows (2-0x1) 10-12 reps

55 lbs x 10, 55 x 10, 55 x 8

Having completed my session, I walked to the change room with my head high and shoulders back. Maybe there was some swagger in my step, too. I’ve had a fair number of tough training days lately, but today was a good one. Day 2 will see more apprehension when I attempt to deadlift the most weight I’ve done since June. Day 3 will test me again when I am supposed to bench 120 pounds for 5 sets of 3 reps. Those could be good days or bad ones, but I’m looking forward to the challenges. Tomorrow will be 31 days until the competition!

Here I Go Again?

Something happened in the midst of my deadlift sets this morning, and my back has been cranky ever since. Only this is the right side of my lower back, while the left side has bothered me most over the course of the year. <sigh> Just yesterday my coach had asked how the SI was feeling, and I said everything was feeling good. <sigh> About 5 weeks out from competition and this is not what I want to be feeling right now. Fatigue? Yes. Minor aches and pains? Okay. This? No. But I know what to do and I am motivated to do what it takes to get this back under control again.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-5 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 7, 135 x 4, 165 x 4, with belt 195 x 3, 205 x 2

main event, with belt: 220 lbs x 5, 220 x 5, 220 x 4, 220 x 4, 220 x 2

Deadlifts were feeling good up until midway through the third working set when I felt a mild ache on the right side of my lower back. It could be felt throughout my final sets, too. In fact, the final set was cut short, because I lost my tension while trying to stretch my back a bit between reps.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 6-8 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 4, 100 x 3

The mild back ache gained some intensity during my bench sets thanks to the arch. I put my feet up on the bench to keep my back flat for my final two warm up sets.

main event: 110 lbs x 5, 110 x 6, 110 x 4, 110 x 3

Feet down and as much arch as I could tolerate which seemed to get less and less each set. These felt tough today, and I certainly had better numbers with the same weight last week. Thankfully my shoulder wasn’t an issue, but the back certainly was.

3. pause deadlifts (3-1×0) 4-6 reps

145 lbs x 5, 145 x 5, 145 x 4

With the way my back was feeling, I expected that these would be problematic and hard; however, they actually felt pretty good. I was definitely fatigued by the final set though, and there was a lovely burn in my glutes by the time I’d finish a set.

4. pull downs

70 lbs x 8, 80 lbs x 6

My coach programmed 90 pounds for these today, but I could barely get the bar to my chest. I dropped the weight and then added a bit on the second set. Again, I had better numbers for these last week.

5. plank

x 50 seconds, x 35 seconds, x 30 seconds

I came into the gym expecting a tough but good session, so what I experienced was a bit frustrating. Tough is acceptable, but I am so done with the back issues! And right now, I’m in a bit of pain. I’ve got some stretches and rolling to do at home, and I’ve been instructed to take an extra rest day. I will. That will mean making adjustments to next week’s training days, but I need to keep this back issue from becoming a major thing again.

Imagine All the People

People are weird. It’s true. They are! I see it all the time at work, at the gym, while shopping or driving.

I see people at the gym doing things I cannot even begin to understand. What purpose is there in doing squats on the smith machine with your feet so far in front of you that you couldn’t possibly maintain that position without mechanical assistance? Maybe I’m just not aware of the benefits of such an exercise. Or maybe you’re just weird.

There is the woman who I see at the gym on a regular basis…the one who quarter squats 65 pounds with a pad and doesn’t put her weights away when she is finished.

Every. Single. Person. at the gym who cannot perform a basic exercise without looking at themselves in the mirrors. Having trained more than 3 years at a gym without mirrors, I find the whole concept of mirror worship to be strange and unappealing. I do not get it. Especially when technique takes a back seat to appearance.

I frequently come upon an intersection with a dual left turn lane. More often than not, I will pull up behind a vehicle in the outer of the dual left turn lanes waiting for the turn signal. Again, more often than not, once the turn signal activates, I am flabbergasted when the vehicle in the outer lane makes the turn and immediately proceeds to move into the right lane. You had two lanes to choose from for this turn and you chose the far left lane, but what you really wanted was the right lane. Why? Why were you in the far left lane to begin with? I don’t get it.

I see people at the gym training in all sorts of inappropriate footwear. Untied shoes. Really? Sandals. Really? Now I live 3/4 of the year or more in flip flops, but I can’t imagine ever training in sandals. Why? What purpose does it serve? How does it benefit your training? And shoes untied? Are you serious? Or are you here for show and not to actually put in the work?

Even though my clientele has changed significantly since I started working at Starbucks, there are still the occasional oddities that leave me scratching my head. Like the woman today who made a face behind the back at the customer before her. She seemed extremely put out by the gentleman I had just served, even though his order wasn’t anything complicated, yet she felt it necessary to silently shriek at him behind his back as he walked away from my register. I didn’t understand her frustration, since his order didn’t take that  long to process. However, her order was significantly more complicated and time-consuming. Of course, I treated her with the same courtesy and respect I had shown the previous customer, while I inwardly sighed at the insanity of it all. Seriously, get over yourself!

My heart broke when I realized that a young girl was quite likely without a place to go tonight, after she asked if we were open all night (we closed at 9pm). She was wearing only a t-shirt, pants, and flip flops. She didn’t order anything, but proceeded to concoct a drink of water with copious amounts of sugar stirred in. I’m horrible at guessing ages, but I’d estimate she was between 11 and 14 years of age.

People that do not understand technology annoy me. Like really! I don’t understand a lot of technology, but I figure it out. If you tap your card on the POS terminal and it doesn’t work, the problem most likely isn’t with my terminal! You do know how tap works, right? Here’s how my tap works…I can tap my card up to a limit of $5o a transaction. More than $50? I need to insert the chip and enter my PIN. Simple. Even if my transaction is less than $50, if I have used the tap feature so many times in a row, then I will be required to insert my chip and enter my PIN before I can use the tap function again. Simple. Now, I don’t have a fancy debit card, but that is how my card is set up. I don’t know how your card is set up at your bank, but I suspect that there are more similarities than differences. So, if your tap doesn’t work at my establishment, then perhaps you just need to insert your chip and enter your pin rather than giving me a condescending look and attitude about it. Maybe you should understand your banking features? Just a thought.

I always get a kick out of the customers who apologize for their complicated orders, even when I do not consider their order to be complicated at all! Thank you for thinking of us, but we’ve got you covered! A triple grande, non-fat, half-sweet caramel latte with no foam and extra caramel drizzle is not a complicated order. Trust me on that. Also, I don’t care if you ask for a medium sized drink instead of a grande! I worked at Tim Hortons for 12 years before switching to Starbucks…I understand how foreign the Starbucks language can feel.

To the woman in the pick-up with Alberta plates…when you pull up to a red light at an intersection, it is generally considered the right thing to do to stop your vehicle in front of the road markings indicating where to stop rather than completely covering the crosswalk with your vehicle. I know this is British Columbia, but I suspect the driving laws aren’t that dissimilar in Alberta. Just a guess though.

So, you are a Christian. Great! I’m a Christian, too! So why is it that you have no concept of a garbage can when you are a guest at my workplace? You are a regular customer. I know you by name. And yet, you never fail to leave your garbage on the counter or table where you sat. Why? I raised my kids to always put their garbage into the trash receptacles whenever they were outside of the house, even if they were at a cheap, fast food establishment. I consider that basic decency, courtesy and respect. It has nothing to do with my religious beliefs, but your lack of decency speaks volumes to me about your beliefs.

It’s no secret that I hate shopping. I hate shopping for many reasons and encountering people is actually quite low on that list. However, I am frequently irritated by people when shopping. The people who leave their shopping carts unattended in the middle of an aisle. People who slowly wander aisles while blocking anyone’s attempts to pass. People who stop unexpectedly in crowded spaces. People who are more concerned about Costco’s samples than they are about blocking the flow of traffic. Stores and businesses that don’t open until 10am. When I have a free morning, I like to get stuff done first thing in the morning, including shopping! Who has time to wait all day to go shopping?! So you charge for bags? Okay…I’ll pay for bags. Hey! I’m paying for bags…why are you shoving everything into as few bags as possible, so the bags will rip before I even get home? Paying for bags or not…why are you packing the bags so full and awkwardly so that box will rip a hole in the bag before I get home?

So you work in customer service? Great. Me, too! Why can’t you smile? Why are you doing your best to shuffle me through as quickly as you possibly can without any effort to engage me as a customer? Seriously? Would it hurt you to smile and have a bit of personality? I know it’s been a long day, but I’ve been there, done that and smiled my way through it.

People. There are many reasons why I prefer to stay at home and avoid them, but sometimes it’s nice to be out in their midst. Sometimes though, I need frequent reminders of why that is a nice thing!

It Is Well

“It’s okay if you’re scared about endings and new beginnings. But remember, you do it every single day. All will be well.” ~Nanea Hoffman

Four years ago today I walked into a private gym to meet with a personal trainer for the very first time. I was absolutely scared that day. Stepping into a gym was like landing in a foreign country where nobody speaks English and the food is unrecognizable. I felt awkward and out of place. So far outside of my comfort zone. My only real hope was that I might finally lose some of my excess weight, but even then I was doubtful.

The journey of the past four years has been incredible and life-changing. I am not the same person today as I was then. The road has not always been easy or free from potholes and roadblocks. There have been ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments. I have reached goals that far surpass my original goal to lose 20-25 pounds, goals that I could never have even anticipated setting for myself. I went from someone who was finally beginning to consider herself a runner to a competitive powerlifter. Four years ago, I hadn’t even heard of powerlifting. I changed jobs. I found myself.

As I reflect on the past four years and where I am today, I can see the road before me disappearing into a shimmer on the horizon. It is very true that every day is a new beginning and you cannot always see what is coming your way. The path of my journey veered slightly this summer with a change in training venue and coaching. Dealing with injury made the road bumpy for most of the year. My husband had major surgery and an ongoing heart issue. Changes at work. Relationship trials. The day-to-day stuff of life. I’ve continued to do it every single day.


The End of Summer

“In the summer, the days were long, stretching into each other. Out of school, everything was on pause and yet happening at the same time, this collection of weeks when anything was possible.”

―Sarah Dessen, Along for the Ride

Time is always a funny thing with its ability to simultaneously fly by at the speed of sound and slowly ooze like the pouring of molasses on a winter’s day. In the early days of this summer, I remember feeling as if the days were streaking past my cockpit as I traveled at hyperspeed, but now that summer is nearly over I find myself feeling quite the opposite. For me, this summer seems to have been a long one.

I am not sure why this summer didn’t fly by for me, as this summer wasn’t a whole lot different from any other summer. I worked. I had a competition. Actually, now that I think about it, I worked more this summer than I did last year, and my work schedule looks quite different from a year ago, too. Unlike previous years, I did have the opportunity to get to the Farmer’s Market a couple of times this summer. My husband and I enjoyed a long weekend away to celebrate our 25th anniversary, and that weekend in itself was an enjoyably languid holiday. My husband was also recovering from surgery for the first part of the summer, which meant that he was not as busy as he typically is, or at least he wasn’t supposed to be! I had a coaching change and a new gym to call home.

This summer has been different, but I cannot say that I would change much of anything. Now that my kids are all adults, summer tends to be just the continuation of normalcy but with more heat, daylight, and smokey haze. We eat, sleep, work, work out, pay bills, do laundry, and try to enjoy days off as we get them. This summer was all of those every day routine things and then some, and yet it was also something more. Intangible, perhaps, but enjoyable and relaxed.

On this final summer long weekend, my family is doing things. My daughter is excited to be back in college in a few days. My youngest son is looking forward to not being in school for a while. My eldest son is taking a hunting course this weekend. My husband will continue catching up on paper work, I think. And me? I’m working all weekend long, and that’s okay. I have had a good summer.